• Prisoners fear congestion will cause rapid spread of the coronavirus.
•They share bedding and eating utensils.
"Consider us dead already."
That's what many Kenyan inmates say, fearing they will contract the coronavirus because of congestion, bad sanitation and poor hygiene.
Some 386 inmates spoke of their fears during the coronavirus sensitisation by the Kenya Red Cross in Kabarnet and Eldama-Ravine prisons in Baringo county on Wednesday.
“It is difficult to control the spread of the virus here with the thick congestion, sharing of bedding and shortage of feeding utensils like plates and cups,” an inmate said.
They said guards also harass them, not allowing them time to bathe or properly wash their hands.
“Hurry up or you will miss food,” another inmate quoted a warden as saying.
“Kenyans should know that in case of a coronavirus outbreak, all of us in the prisons are 'dead',” the prisoner said, appealing to humanitarian agencies to provide them with sanitisers, soap and water and handkerchiefs.
They said although they are locked in, their officers walk freely in and out and may infect them.
Red Cross programme coordinator Caleb Kibet urged the inmates to avoid close contact, cover their mouths when coughing, wash their hands regularly and make proper use of sanitisers.
Some 231 prisoners at Kabarnet prison and 155 in Eldama-Ravine underwent training.
They were warned of flu or malaria-like symptoms – sweating, fever, deep dry cough, chest pains, trouble breathing, headache, sore throat, muscle aches.
“They are similar to malaria symptoms but does it not mean one should get scared before being tested and put in isolation for the incubation period of 14 days,” Kibet said.
County Commander-Superintendent of Prisons Martin Akwanyi said Kabarnet prison exceeds its capacity by 80 prisoners, while Eldama-Ravine is 100 over the limit.
“But we are better compared to other prisons like Eldoret, Nakuru and Naivasha,” Akwanyi said, hoping the government will help ease the congestion.
The county boss said owing to the coronavirus, at least 108 inmates have been committed and released from Naivasha, Nakuru, Eldoret and Kabarnet prisons.
He was backed by Baringo Central Deputy County Commander and superintendent of Prisons Job Komen.
The Red Cross facilitators also trained wardens on how to keep a safe distance from inmates.
“The disease is new to the country but luckily the virus has not yet been reported in Baringo, and we pray to God it does not land here," Kibet said.
The Red Cross has opened satellite offices in Kabarnet, Marigat, Koibatek and Chemoling’ot to provide emergency services in collaboration with the county.
(Edited by V. Graham)